Tuesday, March 8, 2016

King and Queen's Bardic Champions

It is very important to me to start documenting my performances because I have been working so hard on all of them. I have been working hard on how to stand, how to talk, what to wear, what props to use, how to move, etc.

This past weekend, against previous decisions that my life had been too hectic, I decided that I would compete if for no other reason than to be given a venue in which to teach a little bit more about skomorokhi and what/how they did what they did.

For the first round, I did a piece I call The Brave Youth. I decided to incorporate a lot of the movement I learned taking classes from Antonio Fava as well as an extant find mask I had been wanting to make for a long time.

Here is the 13th century 'buffoon' mask, made of leather and found under the floor boards of a cobbler's shop that was excavated.

And here is the mask that I made, using the same measurements as the mask above (16 x 13 centimeters).

The card I handed to the judges with the documentation for my performance read as follows:

"The Brave Youth
Katrusha Skomorokha Negodieva `Doch

Mask based on late 13th century extant find.

"The first known recording of a Russian folktale was made in the sixteenth century by an Italian historian."
"While the east slavic folktale flourished as entertainment ... folktales were enjoyed among all social classes, including the tsar's family."
Johns, Andreas. Baba Yaga. Peter Lang Publishing: New York. 2004. Page 49.

In 1905, an excavation revealed burial mounds of the 11th -12th centuries that bear a striking resemblance to the tales of Baba Yaga, giving us reasonable cause to believe the skomorokhi told the stories to keep the bodies from being disturbed."

Here are a few photos from the performance to show some of the acrobatics used. I geared the performance hoping for children to come forward and enjoy it. I will post a video of the performance once they are available.

My second round piece I had decided on taking excerpts from the Izbornik, a book written around 1076. My documentation for it read:

"Parental Advice
Katrusha Skomorokha Negodieva `Doch

Excerpts from the Izbornik, circa 1076.

"The majority of the people were largely unaffected by the conversion (to Christianity) ... they continued to practice the ancient cult of their ancestors and to call upon the skomorokhi for spiritual guidance."

Zguta, Russel. Russian Minstrels. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1978. Page 15."

Here is what I read:

"Child, in your lifetime test your soul and see what is bad for her and do not give it to her, for not everything agrees with everyone, not every soul enjoys everything. Entice your soul with gladness and comfort your heart, and remove sorrow far from you so that you will not grow old too soon.

Do not be ashamed to stand against the current of the river, or submit yourself to a fool, or court the face of the powerful, but defend truth to the death.

Do not withhold your mercy even from the dead and do not fail those who weep; mourn with those who mourn and do not shrink from visiting the sick, because for those deeds you will be loved. A sweet throat multiplies friends, and a fair speaking tongue multiplies courtesies.

Child, from your youth up choose instruction, and until you turn grey you will find wisdom. Come to her like one who plows and sows and wait for her good crop. In cultivating her you will toil a little while, yet soon you will be eating the good things of her produce. She seems utterly intractable to the uninstructed and the faint of heart will not remain with her but leave; for wisdom is like her name and is not revealed to many.

Put your feet in her fetters and into her collar your neck; put your shoulder under her and carry her, and let her bonds be not to close. Come to her with all your soul and keep her ways with all your might Search out and seek, and she will become known to you. When you get hold of her, you will not let her go, for in the end you will find her rest: she will be changed into joy for you and her fetters will become for you a strong protection and her collar a robe of glory, for upon her is the beauty of gold, and her bonds are a braid of precious stone. You will put her on as a robe of glory and put a crown of gladness on your head.

If you wish, child, you will be instructed, and if you give it your soul, you will become clever; if you love to listen, you will live, and if you incline your ear, you will become wise. Child, stand in the multitude of elders, and if one is wise, cleave to him. Be willing to listen to every narrative, and the precept of insight will not escape you. If you see a wise man, rise early to visit him and let your feet wear out his doorstep.

Above all, child, remember this. Do not hide your wisdom, for wisdom will be recognized by your word. Be firm in your mind, and let your word be one."

Although I did not make it into the third round, I decided that I would begin documenting my resume as well. So my resume was written as such:

Katrusha Skomorokha Negodieva `Doch

A War Song (not period) written by another
" ... foreign influences enabled the skomorokhi to transform themselves ..." page 21

Order of the Bedchamber (period style) praise poem for the King created on the spot
"Of the 188 persons listed under the general heading of the Order of the Bedchamber ... two were skomorokhi." page 54-55

Traditional Russian historical piece (period style)
" ... skomorokhi became heirs to a rich body of oral heroic poetry ..." page 22

Sing-a-long (not period)
"... on occasion Ivan himself (Ivan the Terrible) took part in their (the smokorokhi) entertainments." page 55.

Zguta, Russell. Russian Minstrels. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1978.

The only other thing to explain is the clothing style choice. Skomorokhi, having been nearly banished by the church, took on a lot of repertoire as well as clothing styles from their European counterparts. They took inspiration from anywhere they could get it: Germany, Italy, Greece, China, etc. So I fashioned my garb after these descriptions and the few illuminations we can find of skomorkhi. And yes, there were female skomorokhi.